In conversation with Queen’s Black Academic Society

QBAS President talks anti-racism and allyship at Queen’s

The 2019-20 Queen’s Black Academic Society executive team.
Credit: 
Supplied by Queen's Black Academic Society

The Queen’s Black Academic Society (QBAS) has asked other student groups to take action in support of Black lives.

QBAS President Catherine Haba said the Society is calling for clubs to take action to stand in solidarity with the Black community so it can curate a conversation about fighting racism and violence at Queen’s. 

“The deaths of George Floyd, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many other black people are not isolated incidents, nor are they new occurrences in the Black community,” Haba wrote in a statement to The Journal. “However, what is new is the collective global consciousness that has converged around these events, drawing the attention of many who, before, were not engaged in discussion and movements against anti-blackness.”

In a post shared to its social media platforms on May 31, the Society stated it expects clubs and organizations at Queen's to act as allies and take supportive action both in private and in public. The Society also shared a list of resources and organizations accepting donations in support of Black lives.  

“QBAS and other equity clubs at Queen’s have asked for allyship from other groups that may not have the same lived experiences as us,” Haba wrote. “This remains an important part of the conversation and actions [that need] to be taken to make Queen’s University and Kingston more inclusive.”

Verbal advocacy, according to Haba, is the first step in choosing to become an ally because the individual or group is taking a clear stance against the unjust treatment of Black individuals globally and amplifying Black voices and concerns. 

“Making a statement is the first step; an action is the second,” Haba wrote. 

The Society asked student groups to match its donation of $100 to an organization that supports all Black lives on June 3. The AMS was asked to donate $500 and the University to donate $1,000.

“We thank all of the clubs who responded to our call to action and donated to an organization or fund that supports the prosperity of Black lives,” Haba wrote. “We urge groups and clubs in the Queen’s community to further their commitment to anti-racism and equity initiatives.”

Following a total donation of $11,000 from student groups, the Society later increased its donation request from the University to $12,000 on June 4. The Society shared on June 8 that the University has not yet addressed the request, in part, because it’s “having trouble navigating the charity act which restricts [its] ability to donate to any organization that does not have an aligning mandate.”

As of June 8, student groups had raised more than $33,000 to support Black lives.

QBAS also wants student clubs to reflect and act on how their organization’s mandate and goals can be adapted to include racialized communities, including what changes can be made to ensure they aren’t just acting as a performative ally. 

Clubs are being urged to commit to anti-racist practices and include them in their club constitution. An example of this commitment, according to Haba, is pledging to have members complete anti-oppression training and other equity-focused training provided by external bodies like the Human Rights and Equity Office.

“The events related to anti-black racism across North America relate to the Queen’s community because the theme of anti-black racism, hate crimes, and exclusion are themes experienced at Queen’s,” Haba wrote, adding the Queen’s and Kingston community act as a microcosm of some of the experiences of self-identified Black individuals globally. 

“In the last [five] years alone, Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) [individuals] have witnessed blatantly racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and queerphobic incidences go unpunished,” Haba wrote.

Haba explained requests for essential equitable resources for students to succeed on campus are often acknowledged, but not provided by the University. 

“Self-identified [B]lack persons are grossly underrepresented in faculty, staff, and student structures,” Haba wrote. “With this in mind, our community has a responsibility to keep the school and students accountable by banding together outside of crisis for a common desire for an inclusive environment accessible to all students.”

Haba said individual students can demonstrate allyship on a regular basis by challenging the perspectives of friends, family members, and people who have the power to make a change. 

For this allyship to be useful, Haba explained students should educate themselves on the concept of allyship as well as the causes and communities they wish to support. In the case of allies to the Black community, she said non-Black individuals should ask what is needed from them. 

“It’s important to offer your time and resources to the needs of the group and recognize your limitations and place within the movement,” Haba wrote. 

Individuals can educate themselves by reading literature and accessing media created by Black content creators and compensating them for their work. 

QBAS also recommended students diversify the accounts they follow on social media, as injustices faced by the Black community, like police brutality, are often not reported through traditional news media outlets.

“Beyond this, it’s important to show allyship outside of Instagram stories, posts, and shares and move into discussions with others,” Haba wrote. “There is much unease that comes with learning to be a good ally and you have to approach it with humility, a keen mind, and self-awareness of your privilege.”

Haba said it's essential allies act by donating to funds that support Black lives, amplifying Black voices, and using their privilege to speak “alongside [B]lack voices and not over them.”

“These [collective actions] make for an impactful and welcomed ally because allyship is not a singular action in response to a crisis, it is a habit and practice of using privilege to learn, listen, and advocate,” Haba wrote.

Haba also said QBAS is present to provide support to self-identified Black students at Queen’s.

“Your feelings are valid. This time can be very overwhelming, and we encourage you to take time for yourselves,” Haba wrote. “Remember to indulge in black creativity and celebrate black joy. Connect with other [B]lack students—members of QBAS are here to support you and service your well-being.”

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